Level of awareness about osteoporosis among women 50 years and older in Puerto Rico.
Osteoporosis is an established and well-defined disease that
affects millions of people around the world and is a major cause of
morbidity. Not much is known about the level of awareness of the
condition among the general population in Puerto Rico. The objectives of
this study were: 1) to determine the level of awareness and knowledge
about osteoporosis among women 50 years and older in Puerto Rico, and 2)
to describe the differences in level of awareness and knowledge among
women who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis and those who have not.
Telephone interviews were conducted among a sample of women 50 years and
older who were residents of Puerto Rico during the month on February,
2005. A four-page questionnaire was developed to address the study
objectives. Of the total number of women contacted (342), 28 (8%)
indicated they did not know anything about osteoporosis and could not
answer the remainder of the questionnaire. In spite of widespread
awareness about the condition, more than one in ten women responded they
did not know what factors contribute to the development of osteoporosis
and nearly one in five women did not know the complications associated
with osteoporosis. Public education campaigns must address risk factors
and the strategies to overcome those that are modifiable in order to
prevent the development of osteoporosis and its complications. [P R
Health Sci J 2010;1:54-59]
Key words: osteoporosis, awareness, Puerto Rico
Osteoporosis es una enfermedad establecida y bien definida que afecta a millones de personas alrededor del mundo y es una causa mayor de morbilidad. No se conoce mucho sobre el nivel de conocimiento de la condicion en la poblacion general de Puerto Rico. Los objetivos de este estudio eran: 1) determinar el nivel de conciencia y conocimiento acerca de la osteoporosis entre mujeres de 50 anos o mas residentes en Puerto Rico y 2) describir las diferencias en los niveles de conciencia y conocimiento entre las mujeres que reportan un diagnostico de osteoporosis y las que no lo reportan. Entrevistas telefonicas fueron llevadas a cabo en una muestra de mujeres de 50 anos o mas que eran residentes de Puerto Rico durante el mes de febrero de 2005. Un cuestionario de cuatro paginas se desarrollo para atender los objetivos del estudio. Del total de mujeres contactadas (342), 28 (8%) indico que no conocian nada sobre osteoporosis y no podian contestar las preguntas del cuestionario. A pesar del amplio numero que reporto estar concientes de la condicion, mas de una en diez mujeres respondio que no conocian que factores contribuyen al desarrollo de osteoporosis y una en cinco no conocia las complicaciones asociadas con la condicion. Campanas educativas publicas deben atender factores de riesgo y las estrategias para superar aquellos que son modificables de manera tal que se pueda prevenir el desarrollo de la osteoporosis y sus complicaciones.
|Article Type:||Perspectiva general de la enfermedad/trastorno|
Mujeres (Investigacion cientifica)
Mujeres (Cuidado y tratamiento)
|Author:||Monsanto, Homero A.|
|Publication:||Name: Puerto Rico Health Sciences Journal Publisher: Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Ciencias Medicas Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Ciencias Medicas ISSN: 0738-0658|
|Issue:||Date: March, 2010 Source Volume: 29 Source Issue: 1|
|Geographic:||Geographic Name: Puerto Rico|
Osteoporosis is an established and well-defined disease that
affects more than 75 million people in Europe, Japan and the USA, and
causes more than 2.3 million fractures annually in Europe and the USA
alone (1). The lifetime risk for hip, vertebral and forearm (wrist)
fractures has been estimated to be approximately 40%, similar to that
for coronary heart disease. Osteoporosis does not only cause fractures,
it can also cause people to become bedridden with secondary
complications that may be life threatening. Since osteoporosis also
causes back pain and loss of height, prevention of the disease and its
associated fractures is essential for maintaining health, quality of
life, and independence among the elderly (1).
In the past, osteoporosis was an under-recognized disease and considered an inevitable consequence of aging. However, perceptions have changed, as epidemiological studies have highlighted the high burden of the disease and its costs to society and health care systems. Improvements in diagnostic technology and assessment facilities make it possible to detect the disease before fractures occur (1).
There is a wide body of evidence regarding the risk factors associated with the development of osteoporosis (1). Some of these factors, such as age and race, may not be modified. Others, such as smoking, exercise, calcium intake and vitamin D consumption, are modifiable with changes in patient behavior. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to educate the public to increase awareness and knowledge about osteoporosis. This is likely to result in preventive behaviors that may postpone the complications associated with this condition.
Although much is known about osteoporosis in certain areas of the world, there is a lack of information from Latin America and Caribbean countries, particularly with regard to the level of awareness of the condition among the general population. In Puerto Rico, there are no known studies that have assessed the level of awareness and knowledge about osteoporosis. This information would be important from a public policy perspective in order to develop public education campaigns aimed at engaging the community to adopt preventive measures to avoid the risks and complications of the condition.
Therefore, the objectives of this study were: 1) to determine the level of awareness and knowledge about osteoporosis among women 50 years and older in Puerto Rico, and 2) to describe the differences in level of awareness and knowledge among women who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis and those who have not.
This was a cross-sectional survey consisting of telephone interviews conducted among 314 women 50 years and older who were residents of Puerto Rico during the month on February, 2005. The interviews were conducted by an independent contractor to ensure anonymity and confidentiality. The sample size was selected using as a basis the latest Census of the Population. At the time, the projected number of women 50 years and older was 550,799. Telephone numbers were selected at random from telephone directories within each of the regions. Households were contacted and the interviewers requested to speak with a female resident 50 years or older. Once identified, those who consented to participate were asked if they knew what osteoporosis is. Those who responded no to this question were thanked and the interview was ended. A record was kept of those responding that they did not know what osteoporosis is. Consecutive calls were made until the target sample size of 314 women 50 years or older with self-reported knowledge about osteoporosis was reached.
A four-page questionnaire that addressed the study objectives was developed using as a basis previously published studies (available upon request). The questionnaire had three sections: knowledge about osteoporosis, risk factors for osteoporosis, and demographic information. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the findings using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS; Version 12.0) for Windows. Frequency distributions were used to summarize the findings for the total sample. Subgroup analyses were done looking at level of awareness about osteoporosis, its risk factors and complications among those who self-reported a diagnosis of osteoporosis (versus those who did not) and level of education (high school or less versus more than high school).
Characteristics of Respondents
Three hundred forty-two women 50 years or older were contacted. Of the total number of women contacted (342), 28 (8%) indicated they did not know anything about osteoporosis and could not answer the remainder of the questionnaire. Table 1 shows the characteristics of the respondents. The average age was 63 years, with a minimum of 50 and a maximum of 93 (standard deviation = 9.3 years). The age distribution was similar to the population estimates by the Bureau of the Census for Puerto Rico.
Table 1 also shows the characteristics of respondents according to risk factor for developing osteoporosis. The reported incidence of fractures after 45 years of age was low among respondents. Nearly 30% of participants reported having being diagnosed with or having being treated for rheumatoid arthritis, which is substantially higher to the prevalence that has been reported in the United States for people 60 years and older (2). One in four reported having taken hormone replacement therapy. Lifestyle practices varied considerably. While nearly 20% reported smoking or having smoked and nearly half reported drinking more than two cups of coffee daily, 40% indicated they exercised at least 30 minutes daily, and 4% reported drinking alcoholic beverages regularly. A considerable number of respondents indicated that they take calcium and vitamin D supplements (70% and 55%, respectively).
One in four of those interviewed, reported having been told by a physician that they have osteoporosis. Sixty-four percent said they have a family member or a friend who has been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Nearly 50% (147) ofall the women interviewed reported they had undergone a bone mineral density test. Of these, 46% (68 respondents) reported that the results were outside the normal values. More women who have been told they have osteoporosis had a bone density test done when compared to those without a diagnosis. However, almost 30% of women who had reported to have been diagnosed with osteoporosis reported not having had a bone density test done. Almost two-thirds (64%) of those diagnosed with osteoporosis mentioned taking medications or nutritional supplements for the condition compared to 6% of those not diagnosed.
When compared based on self-reported diagnosis of osteoporosis, those with a diagnosis were more likely than those without the diagnosis to have rheumatoid arthritis (48% vs. 20%), smoke (or having smoked; 26% vs. 16%), consume more than two cups of coffee per day (54% vs. 43%), take calcium supplements (85% vs. 65%), take vitamin D supplements (65% vs. 52%), and receive medication treatment for osteoporosis (64% vs. 6%).
Women were also asked about what sources of information they use to obtain information about osteoporosis. The three principal sources of information reported by respondents were: television (75% of respondents), physician (72%) and newspapers (48%). Other sources of information included: books (21%), family members (20%), friends (16%), radio (13%), pharmacists (5%) and Internet (3%).
Level of Awareness about Osteoporosis
Participants were asked to mention the factors that contribute to the development of osteoporosis as well as what are the complications from having osteoporosis. Table 2 shows the beliefs about risk factors and complications that were spontaneously provided by the participants.
More than one in ten women responded they did not know what factors contribute to the development of osteoporosis. More than three quarters of the women interviewed could not identify risk factors such as vitamin D deficiency, family history of osteoporosis, poor eating habits, smoking, alcohol consumption, increasing age, some medications and menopause.
There appeared to be a relationship between education and awareness of risk factors. When compared to respondents with a lower educational level (high school or less), a greater proportion of respondents with higher educational level (college or postgraduate education) were able to identify risk factors such as lack of exercise (42% vs. 33%), vitamin D deficiency (30% vs. 18%), family history (28% vs. 18%), smoking (22% vs. 8%), alcohol consumption (16% vs. 6%), and certain medicines (11% vs. 5%).
Nearly one in five women did not know the complications associated with osteoporosis. One-third did not mention "bone fractures" as a complication. Two-thirds mentioned pain and 47% difficulty to move or walk as a complication even when these are not necessarily present in persons with osteoporosis. The effect of education level was less evident when mentioning complications for osteoporosis. Those with college or postgraduate education were more likely than those with high scho ol education or less to identify disability as a possible consequence (27% vs. 13%) as well as fractures (73% vs. 65%) and loss of height (28% vs. 16%).
Generally, there were no differences in identifying contributing factors for the development of osteoporosis and its complications among participants that reported having a diagnosis and those who did not. Nevertheless, there were some statements where there were moderate differences between groups. Participants with a diagnosis were more likely to mention that lack of exercise and lack of vitamin D are contributing factors for the development of osteoporosis than those without a diagnosis (46% and 30% versus 32% and 19%, respectively). Also, those with a diagnosis were less likely to respond "do not know" when asked about the possible complications of osteoporosis than those who did not have a diagnosis (7% versus 21%, respectively).
Beliefs about Osteoporosis
Several statements were read to participants and they were asked if they were true or false or if they did not know the answer (Table 3). Almost all respondents recognized that people with osteoporosis have a higher risk of suffering bone fractures, while over 70% agreed that people older than 40 years lose bone mass, that people who exercise have a lower risk of developing osteoporosis, and that medications for osteoporosis are given for life.
Osteoporosis was identified with pain, as nine out of ten respondents agreed with the statement "In some patients, osteoporosis can produce a lot of pain." Twenty percent of respondents indicated that osteoporosis is a condition that affects only women. Half were of the opinion that there is no relationship between food habits and osteoporosis. Eight of ten participants responded that people with osteoporosis rarely suffer fatal complications. Lack of knowledge based on the statements where participants marked "Don't know" was more evident for the statements regarding excess alcohol consumption, smoking, and vitamin D consumption.
Beliefs about osteoporosis were similar across participants with different levels of education. Only the responses to the statement "People with osteoporosis may suffer fractures and other complications that may rarely be fatal (cause death)" were found to be different according to the participant's education level. More participants with college or post-graduate education responded "False" to this statement than those with high school or less than high school education (46% vs. 26%).
Those who reported a diagnosis of osteoporosis were more in agreement with the statement "Vitamin D consumption reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis" than those who did not have the diagnosis (73% vs. 59%, respectively). Conversely, those with the diagnosis were less in agreement with the statement "Osteoporosis is a condition that affects only women" than those without the diagnosis (11% vs. 24%, respectively).
The prevalence of osteopenia and osteoporosis among Puerto Rican women 50-69 years old has been reported to be 42% and 12%, respectively, when measured at the lumbar spine and 56% and 8.7%, respectively, when measured at the femoral neck using DXA (3). This is consistent with values reported from Latin America, where the prevalence of vertebral osteopenia in women 50 years and older in Latin America was found to range from 45.5% to 49.7% and vertebral osteoporosis from 21.1% to 17.6%, while the prevalence of femoral neck osteopenia ranged from 46% to 57.2% and femoral neck osteoporosis ranged from 7.9% to 22% (4). In spite of a relatively high incidence of osteopenia and osteoporosis, literature on the level or awareness and knowledge about osteoporosis in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean is lacking. This information is important to develop educational strategies so that adequate preventive measures are taken on time to prevent complications, such as fractures.
In spite of being a well-documented condition, osteoporosis has been largely examined from a physiological model, the chief target for this examination being postmenopausal
women (5). In fact, women have been found to have greater awareness of osteoporosis than men (6). The emphasis on older postmenopausal women's risk of developing osteoporosis may result in younger postmenopausal women (ages 50-65) and men > 50 years who are not frequently screened to have less knowledge about this condition and perceiving that they are at low risk for developing it (5).The results of this study show that the majority of women over 50 years old in Puerto Rico are aware about osteoporosis as a health condition. This is consistent with previous findings in Canada, (6) Poland, (7) Turkey, (8) Sweden, (9) the Czech Republic, (10) and Scotland (11).
However, women were less aware of osteoporosis risk factors and complications. Ungan found that, in spite of high awareness, a considerable number of Turkish women were unaware of risk factors and consequences of osteoporosis (8). Waller and colleagues documented a lack of awareness about the importance of food products and nutrients, such as calcium, vitamins and minerals (9). Lewin et al. reported a lack of awareness of the risks associated with smoking, family history, being underweight and inactivity (11). Ailinger and colleagues reported that people from a university community in the United States taking the Facts on Osteoporosis Quiz had inadequate knowledge about osteoporosis (12). Education seems to play a role in the level of awareness about risk factors and complications of osteoporosis. Generally, women who had a higher education level were more likely to identify risk factors and complications than women with a lower educational level. This is consistent with the results of other studies (12-13).
Health beliefs also play an important role on actual health behaviors. Perceived susceptibility, seriousness, barriers, and benefits about osteoporosis have been found to be related to osteoporosis behaviors (5). This study has shown that there continue to be misconceptions with regard to risk factors and complications of osteoporosis. Some believe that osteoporosis is a condition that affects only women, that is not preventable and that there is no relationship between food habits and osteoporosis. The results from this study were once again similar to the study conducted by Juby and Davis in Canada (6). Developing public education strategies could enhance knowledge that could lead to a change in beliefs and more preventive behaviors. Waller, et al. found that subjects who had previously participated in an educational intervention consisting of information about osteoporosis' risk factors and complications had higher scores in a knowledge test than those who were new to the program (9).
This study has several limitations. The data is based on a cross sectional sample of women 50 years or older who were contacted by telephone at random using telephone directories. Not all households have listed telephone numbers or have telephones. Furthermore, there was no a priori way of determining if there would be an individual that fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Therefore, the sample was not necessarily representative of all the women 50 years or older who live in Puerto Rico. Health information, such as diagnosis and use of medications and supplements, was based on self-report and could not be verified. Also, the interviews were conducted in 2005 and public awareness about osteoporosis may have changed since. Finally, the study was not powered to study differences among those with a diagnosis of osteoporosis and those without a diagnosis. Therefore, differences between groups should be interpreted with caution.
In conclusion, although the majority of women 50 years and older reported to have some awareness about osteoporosis, the level of knowledge was poor, particularly with regard to risk factors associated with the condition and its complications. Knowing the risks of osteoporosis and health beliefs of those at risk is in important health concern because these may play a major role in influencing an individual's osteoporosis preventing behaviors (5). Considering the high economic burden of osteoporotic fractures worldwide (1), in the United States, (1, 14) and in Latin America, (4) addressing knowledge gaps is of utmost importance from a societal perspective. Public education campaigns must address risk factors and the strategies to overcome those that are modifiable in order to prevent the development of osteoporosis and its complications. Based on the sources of information respondents reported to consult to learn about osteoporosis, television and printed media, such as newspapers and books, and health care professionals, particularly physicians, could be the channels of communication of information about this condition.
The author expresses his gratitude to Dr. Juan Carlos Orengo, Dr. Fidel Lozano, Dr. Jose Gregorio Quijada, Dr. Lina Cordero, and two internal reviewers for their comments and suggestions. Presented at the XVIII Annual Medical Sciences Campus Research and Education Forum, San Juan, Puerto Rico (March 29, 2007) and the ISPOR 1st Latin America Conference, Cartagena, Colombia (September 9-11, 2007). The author declares that he is an employee of Merck Sharp & Dohme (I.A.) Corp.
(1.) WHO Scientific Group on the Prevention and Management of Osteoporosis (2000: Geneva, Switzerland). Prevention and management of osteoporosis: report of a WHO scientific group. (WHO technical report series; 921).
(2.) Rasch EK, Hirsch R, Paulose-Ram R, Hochberg MC. Prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis in persons 60 years of age and older in the United States Effect of different methods of case classification. Arthritis & Rheumatism 2003;48:917-926.
(3.) Haddock L. Prevalence of osteopenia and osteoporosis in a normal female Puerto Rican population. P R Health Sci J 1997;16:241-244.
(4.) Morales-Torres J, Gutierrez-Urena S. The burden of osteoporosis in Latin America. Osteoporosis Int 2004;15:625-632.
(5.) Doheny MO, Sedlak CA, Estok PJ, Zeller R. Osteoporosis knowledge, health beliefs, and DXA T-scores in men and women 50 years of age and older. Orthopaedic Nursing 2007;26:243-250.
(6.) Juby AG, Davis P. A Prospective Evaluation of the Awareness, Knowledge, Risk Factors and Current Treatment of Osteoporosis in a Cohort of Elderly Subjects. Osteoporos Int 2001;12:617-622.
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(8.) Ungan M, Tumer M. Turkish women's knowledge of osteoporosis. Fam Pract 2001;18:199-203.
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(10.) Vytrisalova M, Kubena A, Vlcek J, Palicka V, Hala T, Pavelka K. Knowledge of osteoporosis correlated with hormone replacement therapy use and health status. Maturitas 2007;56:21-29.
(11.) Lewin KJ, Sinclair HK, Bond CM. Women's knowledge of and attitudes towards hormone replacement therapy. Fam Pract 2003;20:112-119.
(12.) Ailinger RL, Braun MA, Lasus H, et al. Factors influencing osteoporosis knowledge: A community study. J Comm Health Nurs 2005;22:135-142.
(13.) Werner P, Olchovsky D, Shemi G, Vered I. Osteoporosis health-related behaviors in secular and orthodox Israeli Jewish women. Maturitas 2003;46:283-294.
(14.) Strycker-Orsini L, Rousculp MD, Long SR, Wang S. Health care utilization and expenditures in the United States: a study of osteoporosis-related fractures. Osteoporos Int 2005;16:359-371. Outcomes Research Manager, Medical Department, Merck Sharp & Dohme (I.A.) Corp., Carolina, Puerto Rico
Address correspondence to: Dr. Homero A. Monsanto, Merck Sharp & Dohme, PO Box 3689, Carolina, PR 00984-3689. Tel: (787) 474-8181 x Fax: (787) 474-8211 x E-mail: email@example.com
Table 1. Characteristics of respondents Characteristic Frequency Percent Age 314 100% 50-60 years 138 44% 61-70 years 110 35% 71-80 years 47 15% 81 years or older 19 6% Income 314 100% Under $10,000 126 40% $10,000 - $19,999 91 29% $20,000 - $29,999 38 12% $30,000 or more 39 12% No answer 20 7% Education 314 100% Less than high school 102 32% High school diploma 122 39% Some college or university 37 12% University or college degree 45 14% Post-graduate degree 8 3% Region 314 100% San Juan 100 32% Rest of the island 214 68% Osteoporosis risk factors Have received treatment for 85 27.1% rheumatoid arthritis Have had a hip fracture after 3 5.9% the age of 45 years Have had a rib fracture after 5 9.8% the age of 45 years Have has a wrist fracture after 17 33.3% the age of 45 years Have taken hormone replacement therapy 78 24.8% Smoker (currently or in the past) 58 18.5% Exercises at least 30 minutes daily 126 40.1% Drinks alcoholic beverages regularly 13 4.1% Drinks more than two cups of coffee daily 13 45.9% Takes calcium supplements 144 70.4% Takes vitamin D supplements 221 55.1% Table 2. Beliefs about risk factors and complications of osteoporosis Percent who identified risk factor or complication Risk Factors Total sample Sample with Sample with no or Complications (n = 314) self-reported self-reported diagnosis of diagnosis of osteoporosis osteoporosis (n = 81) (n = 233) Risk Factors Calcium deficiency 83.4% 84.0% 83.3% Lack of exercise 35.7% 45.7% 32.2% Vitamin D deficiency 21.3% 29.6% 18.5% Family history 21.0% 25.9% 19.3% Poor eating habits 13.0% 13.6% 12.4% Smoking 12.1% 12.3% 12.0% Alcohol consumption 8.6% 7.4% 9.0% Increasing age 8.0% 8.6% 7.7% Certain medicines 7.0% 7.4% 6.9% Lack of hormones 4.0% 4.9% 3.4% Menopause 3.0% 1.2% 3.9% Don't know 12.0% 6.2% 13.7% Complications Bone fractures 67.2% 72.8% 65.2% Pain 65.9% 71.6% 63.9% Hinders movement/ 37.3% 42.0% 35.6% walking Loss of height 20.1% 16.0% 21.5% Physical disability 18.0% 16.0% 17.6% Don't know 17.5% 7.4% 21.0% Table 3. Beliefs about osteoporosis (n = 314) * True False Don't Know People with osteoporosis have higher 98.7% 0.3% 1.0% risk of suffering bone fractures [98.8%] [1.2%] [0.0%] In some patients, osteoporosis 93.0% 2.5% 4.5% can produce a lot of pain [92.6%] [4.9%] [2.5%] High calcium intake increases the 17.8% 74.8% 7.3% risk of developing osteoporosis [14.8%] [77.8%] [7.4%] People with osteoporosis rarely 80.3% 15.6% 4.1% suffer fatal complications [84.0%] [12.3%] [3.7%] People older than 40 lose bone mass 77.7% 9.9% 12.4% [75.3%] [9.9%] [14.8%] Persons that exercise have a lower 70.7% 15.9% 13.4% risk of developing osteoporosis [76.5%] [13.6%] [9.9%] Medications for osteoporosis are 70.4% 12.7% 16.9% given for life [75.3%] [16.0%] [8.6%] Vitamin D consumption reduces the 62.7% 11.8% 25.5% risk of developing osteoporosis [72.8%] [11.1%] [16.0%] The probability of developing 56.7% 29.0% 14.3% osteoporosis increases if there is a [56.8%] [28.4%] [14.8%] family history of the condition Smoking decreases bone mass 55.4% 15.3% 29.3% [59.3%] [12.3%] [28.4%] Menopause reduces bone loss 52.9% 35.4% 11.8% [49.4%] [38.3%] [12.3%] Osteoporosis cannot be prevented 43.6% 49.7% 6.7% [42.0%] [46.9%] [11.1%] Excess alcohol consumption increases 37.6% 31.8% 30.6% bone mass [40.7%] [37.0%] [22.2%] There is no relationship between 34.7% 50.3% 15.0% food habits and osteoporosis [35.8%] [46.9%] [17.3%] Osteoporosis is a condition that 20.4% 75.5% 4.1% affects only women [11.1%] [80.2%] [8.6%] * Data presented in brackets represent the percentage of respondents with self-reported diagnosis of osteoporosis (n = 81)
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